MUCH BEFORE there were blogs and Facebook, much before there was online booking and travel recommendations, Hugh and Colleen Gantzer were travelling the length and breadth of the country, chronicling unseen, unexplored India and presenting it in their imitable style of writing. For over 40 years, their travelogues and travel stories have appeared across publications under a joint byline. Even today, the Gantzers remain a sprightly couple with wheels on their heels, visiting places both national and international and writing about their experiences.
It all started when Hugh, an Indian Naval officer, took premature retirement and decided to fulfil his wife’s wish to travel and see the world. “It is this lust for wandering that has kept us going,” said Hugh as he spoke at the aptly titled session, ‘Wanderlust: The Stuff of Fantasy’, on the concluding day of Literati 2015. The session, moderated by city-based travel writer Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, also saw young travel writer Amrita Chatterjee share the stage.
Having written over 3,000 articles — they received the National Tourism Award for Excellence in Publishing in 2012 — the Gantzers are the pioneers of Indian travel shows in English with their series Looking Beyond and Taking a Break that premiered on national television nearly 30 years ago. They
have also jumped genres to write thrillers, a book on Tantra (written under the pseudo name of Arvind and Shanta Kale) to creating India’s first spy character ‘Jaz’.
But travel writing remains their first love. “As an Indian naval officer, Hugh had travelled a bit but I really wanted to see more,” said Colleen. “At first, it was to keep my wife happy and then we began making money out of writing,” joked Hugh who shared stories of how people expected them to be foreigners when they arrived at a new destination and how his name was often being mispronounced as ‘huge’.
Their writings have always had a conversational style and a wit that’s hard to match. Quiz the two on what makes a good travel writer and Hugh goes back to his famous quote: “Travel writing is the art of discovering the magic of ordinary persons, places and things.”
Even though they have travelled and seen most destinations, the couple still has a long list of places that are yet to be struck off the bucket list. The Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu in Peru, Bukhara in Uzbekistan are some places on the list. “We were so happy to be here in Chandigarh, having only passed through the city twice earlier. But the more we spend time here, we have gotten angry with Chandigarh Tourism. Looking at the greenery, the avenues, the wide spaces, one can see how they are underselling Chandigarh to the world. They need to look beyond Le Corbusier. Did you know that this land was home to Indus Valley civilisation? Look at the beautiful museum, the gardens… there’s more to Chandigarh than just its architecture,” said the Gantzers who promise to spread the word about City Beautiful.
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